Speed of Light – Constant or Non-Constant?

Does anyone know how to measure the speed of a random photon?

I am well aware of the fact we believe the speed of light in the vacuum of empty space, as denoted by the universal constant c, is 299,792,458 m/s. The International System of Units (SI) even redefined the length of the meter in 1983 to make this exact measurement possible. There have been countless experiments that have confirmed this value.

However, these countless experiments generally involve emitting a photon, bouncing the photon off a mirror (or a set of mirrors), and returning the photon back to a detector that is collocated with the photon emitter. The purpose for the collocation is so one clock is used to measure the elapsed time from emission to detection. This collocation eliminates the need to synchronized multiple clocks and also eliminates the dreaded time-dilation issue associated with clocks moving relative to each other. In other words, these experiments are all performed within the local Inertial Frame of Reference.

So, let me clarify my question. The key word in the question is “random”. Can we measure the speed of a random photon coming into our local Inertial Frame of Reference from a star in some far off Moving Inertial Frame of Reference? In other words, can we measure the speed of a photon that we did not emit in some controlled experiment?

According to modern scientific thought, the speed of this random photon is still going to be 299,792,450 m/s (i.e. the universal constant c). We have Albert Einstein to thank for this conclusion. It is called the Principle of Invariant Light Speed. This principle is one of the hallmarks of his Theory of Relativity. Einstein needed some universal constant to deal with a universe that has no stationary point in which to measure the velocity of anything. I would even go to the extent to say that Einstein was obsessed with the concept of the speed of light being a universal constant. However, I must remind everyone that the Principle of Invariant Light Speed is merely an assumption by Einstein.

Today, the scientific community thinks of Einstein as almost a god. Even in his lifetime, Einstein was the savior of the physics world. However, today’s physicists are not always historians. So, let’s examine the state of the physics world in the late 1800’s. Scientists in the 1800’s knew that sound used air as a medium for transporting sound waves. In the vacuum of space, sound cannot travel because it requires a medium in which to generate compression waves. However, no one knew the composition of outer space at that time. Since ancient times, philosophers believed there was a substance, called aether, that filled outer space and was the medium for transporting light waves. By the mid-1800’s, scientists still believed in the existence of aether.

In the 1860’s, James Clerk Maxwell developed his famous four equations that described the electromagnetic phenomena. His equations confirmed the speed of light that various scientists were trying to measure in various experiments. Maxwell proposed that light was an electromagnetic wave that could travel through empty space as a transverse wave. Suddenly, scientists needed to know whether light travelled through outer space using compressions waves within the aether, or whether they travelled through empty space as transverse waves.

This issue was settled in the famous Michelson-Morley experiments of 1887. If outer space was filled with aether, then it must flow around the Earth. The rate of flow would be different at different points in the Earth’s orbit. Albert Michelson and Edward Morley used a highly sensitive instrument, called an Interferometer, that measures minute differences in the speed of light moving in different directions. The experiment was repeatedly performed in different orientations at different points on the Earth’s orbit. In none of the experiments did they detect any difference in the speed of light. There are two points to keep in mind regarding the Michelson-Morley experiments. First, the Interferometer generated its own photons. So, again, we are dealing with the local Inertial Frame of Reference. Second, the Interferometer did not calculate the speed of the light. The Interferometer only looked for interference patterns generated by light moving at different speeds.

The results of the Michelson-Morley Experiments sent a shock wave through the scientific community. There was no aether in outer space, and light travelled through empty space without a medium. This revelation placed the physics world in a crisis. Scientists were already using redshift to measure the velocities of celestial objects. The belief that redshift measures velocities was based on the Doppler Effect. The Doppler Effect is based on a formula that includes the speed of the medium. Without a medium, the Doppler Effect for light does not function the same as the Doppler Effect for sound. Without an explanation of the Doppler Effect for light, there was no explanation for how redshift measures the speed of a celestial object.

It was into this crisis that Einstein proposed his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905. By assuming the Principle of Invariant Light Speed, the universal constant c could be substituted into the Doppler Effect equation as the speed of the medium. With that substitution, astronomers felt they were justified in using redshift to measure the speed of celestial objects. In 1929, Edwin Hubble published his now famous Hubble’s Law which not only related redshift to velocity, but also to the distance of the object from Earth. Hubble’s Law essentially states that, the farther an object is from Earth, the faster it is moving away from Earth.

So, again, I ask the question. Does anyone know how to measure the speed of a random photon? Was Einstein correct in assuming the Principle of Invariant Light Speed. In Einstein’s own explanation of how redshift works within Moving Inertial Frames of Reference, Einstein appears to be violating another one of his assumptions – the Principle of Relativity. According the Principle of Relativity, one should get the same results when performing the same experiment in different Moving Inertial Frames of Reference. The fact that observed redshift will have different values in different Moving Inertial Frames of Reference directly violates this Principle of Relativity.

Einstein used only a few assumptions, like the Principle of Relativity and the Principle of Invariant Light Speed, to develop his Theory of Relativity. However, assumptions are the axioms of a mathematical theory. If you change one axiom, you change the whole theory. If the Principle of Invariant Light Speed is wrong, it changes Einstein’s Theory of Relativity significantly. For example, the Doppler Effect for light is not the same as the Doppler Effect for sound. Also, redshift does not measure the velocity of a celestial object.

I totally agree that the initial speed of light relative to its light source is the universal constant c. This is what we have measured in countless experiments. However, this statement only means the speed of light is dependent on the speed of its light source. Einstein’s assumption is that the speed of light is independent of the speed of the light source. I contend that scientists have never tested the independent nature of the speed of light. Measuring the speed of random photons would answer the question of whether the speed of light is dependent or independent of its source. If every random photon has speed c, then we have proof of independence. If the speed of random photons varies, then we have an argument for the speed of light being dependent on the speed of the light source. Instead of a constant speed of light, we now have a non-constant speed of light.

I know of three techniques used to measure the speed of an object:

  • A radar signal can be bounced off an object. A succession of radar signals can then determine the velocity of an object. However, the Pauli Exclusion Principle states you cannot bounce a signal off a photon because a photon is not a fermion. A photon is a boson, and multiple bosons can occupy the same space at the same time.
  • One can measure the momentum of a detected object. However, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that we cannot both detect a photon and measure its momentum simultaneously.
  • We can also make two distinct observations of an object measuring the distance and time between the two observations. However, a photon is always destroyed when it is detected. The only way to measure the photon at a second point is to have a mechanism that re-emits a photon upon detection. The problem is the that the re-emitted photon will always have speed c relative to the speed of the emitter. The emitter has no way of re-emitting a photon at the same speed as it was detected. Hence, this process cannot measure the independence of the original photon from the speed of its light source.

I believe that the speed of light is dependent on the speed of the light source, and not independent of it. If Einstein can assume the speed of light is independent of its source, I can equally assume the speed of light is dependent on its source. This assumption of the non-constant speed of light is one axiom of my Theory of Time. I challenge the scientific community to prove my assumption is wrong.

As in a court of law, I am not looking for circumstantial evidence. Examples of circumstantial evidence include, but are not limited to:

  • Experiments proving time dilation with clocks. I contend that time dilation is the result of Einstein’s assumption of independent light speed. Atomic clocks, as with any clock, has an oscillator that oscillates independent of the motion of the clock. As a result, atomic clocks, by their very design, will experience time dilation as illustrated by GPS satellites.
  • Experiments proving time dilation in nature. I contend these experiments always have relativistic momentum hidden somewhere in the experiment. This relativistic momentum is always interpreted as relativistic mass times a velocity less than the universal constant c. I believe relativistic momentum should be interpreted as the zero mass of an object times a relativistic velocity that may be greater than c. Speeds are limited to c only because of the Lorentz Factor Einstein used in his mathematical theory, which, of course, is dependent on the assumed independent speed of light.
  • Experiments dealing with the Doppler Effect for Light. I contend that scientists of today do not understand the Doppler Effect for Light. They always explain the Doppler Effect in terms of sound and then do arm waving to say the same thing happens for light. The fact is that it doesn’t necessarily do the same thing as sound unless you assume a constant and independent light speed of c. Since redshift follows directly from the Doppler Effect for Light, then redshift also depends on independent light speed.

I suspect it is impossible to directly measure the speed of an incoming random photon from a random star. That is why the Principle of Invariant Light Speed is only an assumption. But, if someone knows how to do it, I would like a reply from you. Also, if you have any indirect way, other than those listed upon, that proves the speed of light is constant and independent of its source, please leave a reply also. I do ask that you register with the website to leave a reply. I am trying to keep this a serious discussion and avoiding spammers.

Thank you for any and all serious comments pertaining specifically to the question asked. Again, the question is “does anyone know how to measure the speed of a random photon?”.

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